london panoramic cityscape
London
Covent Garden
London WC2E 9
TfL Fare Zone 1
 
 
 
 
 
       
To most visitors Covent Garden means the Piazza with its Market Halls and street entertainers, and The Royal Opera House. The name in fact also refers to a network of streets surrounding the Piazza, known as Seven Dials, which contains a wide variety of independent retailers.
 
This is a fun place to visit and very popular but it is still possible to find quiet places like St Paul's Church (Covent Garden) Churchyard to relax away from the crowds.
 
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Covent Garden Underground Station is on the corner of Long Acre and James Street. Coming out of the exit and turning left will lead to the shopping area around Neal Street. Turning right from the exit will lead the visitor to the Piazza and the Market Halls. For an in depth list of shops in the area, visit Web:  Street Sensation 
 
Role as a Fruit & Vegetable Market
Until 1974 Covent Garden was the central flower, fruit and vegetable wholesale market for London. Although the area is bounded by High Holborn to the north, Kingsway to the east, the Strand to the south and Charing Cross to the west, it is the narrow streets leading off the Piazza that remind us of Covent Garden’s real purpose.
 
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The market was busiest at dawn and in those days the narrow streets were filled with the smells and debris of recently arrived fruit, vegetables and flowers; pubs were open to serve hungry and thirsty traders, carriers and porters, and by 09:00 all would be quiet again. How different it is today.
 
The Convent Garden
In medieval times the area was actually the fruit and vegetable garden for the Convent of St Peter at Westminster (Westminster Abbey). When King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries, he divided up the area and gave certain parts to aristocratic associates. The convent garden and Long Acre he gave to the Earl of Bedford.
 
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In the 17th century the Earl commissioned architect, Inigo Jones, to redevelop the area into an arcaded piazza with St Paul's Church (not St Paul's Cathedral) centrally placed on the western side. An open-air market operated in the centre of the piazza.
 
Street Performers
Following the Great Fire of London in 1666 Covent Garden took over as the main fresh market for London. The first street entertainment in Covent Garden was recorded in 1662. It is currently the only part of London licensed for street performers who have to undergo auditions before the Market’s management, prior to being granted a timetabled slot to perform. Quality is thus assured.
 
20th Century Restoration 
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In 1830 a permanent market hall was built to accommodate the traders. When the market moved in 1974 the area fell into disrepair and there were moves to demolish the old buildings and remodel everything. Thank goodness the old buildings were saved and restored. Nowadays the traders in the central market hall are mostly novelty shops and cafes. Crowds come to watch the street entertainment, and the serious shoppers go to Long Acre and Neal Street.
 
Covent Garden Market
After an initially successful ‘one-off’ Night Market held in August 2007, the market became a permanent affair. Go to  Web: Covent Garden Market
 
Royal Opera House
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The Royal Opera House (ROH) complex backs on to the north corner of the Piazza. Beside the ROH on the other side of Floral Street is the Royal Ballet School which is joined to the ROH by a modern, twisting aluminium bridge, high above the street. This is the ‘Bridge of Inspiration’, designed by the celebrated bridge architects, Wilkinson Eyre. This structure won for its designer Jim Eyre the Aluminium Imagination Award for 2003.  Web: Royal Opera House
 
St Paul's Church
On the western side of the Piazza can be seen the imposing ‘entrance’ to St Paul's Church, colloquially known as the ‘Actors’ Church’. In the early 20th century cockney street girls, toting baskets of flower posies, could be found waiting for customers on the steps of St Paul’s, It is said that these girls were the inspiration for Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s famous play ‘Pygmalion’ (later turned into that fabulous musical ‘My Fair Lady’.)
 
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The actual entrance to St Paul’s church and churchyard is through an archway on the south side of King Street. It is a nice spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Piazza and maybe look up the names of all the famous actors commemorated here Web:St Paul's Church
 
London Transport Museum
On the south east corner of the Piazza is the newly refurbished London Transport Museum which is still housed in the original 1872 Flower Market building.
 
Getting There
To find the best way for getting to Covent Garden, visit TfL Journey Planner.
 
- By Underground
Covent Garden Station Piccadilly Line. Exit into the Piazza
Charing Cross Station Northern & Bakerloo Lines, and National Rail
Leicester Square Station Piccadilly & Northern Lines
Holborn Station Piccadilly & Central Lines
 
Tip
On the weekends and public holidays, Covent Garden underground station can be quite crowded. Leicester Square station is only a very short distance (.15 mile or 260 meters) and is a realistic alternate station.
 
- By Bus
We suggest that you use the TfL 'Journey Planner' above.
 
Google Map - Covent Garden